References – Wolford
„Time is always an important factor''
Brigitte Kurz, until the end of October 2019 Wolford CFO, on the opportunities in a crisis and why external help can help a company in some situations.
You joined Wolford in 2015. Were you aware of the implications of the economic circumstances at that time?

It was already clear to me then that Wolford had a cold. That’s not difficult for a listed company either. But the fact that the cold turned out to be a full-blown flu was a particular challenge.

How did you deal with the situation when you were aware of the full scope of the challenge?

Of course it wasn’t too much of a surprise, the company had already been through some difficult years by then. And it was clear from the start that we needed to work on structural issues. I am a person who loves challenges and I approached it with full vigour.

In the context of Wolford being listed on the stock exchange, is a sensitive approach and a tight timeframe necessary?

When I took over responsibility in the financial area in November 2015, it quickly became clear that we needed external support. We had to implement restructuring measures in many areas and competent external advice helps to keep the issue within a manageable timeframe. In most cases, you can’t do this from within the company alone. And with Syngroup, we had a very competent partner at our side.

It's always said that a crisis is an opportunity?

Which is true in a way. And it cannot be denied that Wolford was in trouble. The good thing about a crisis, and to that extent the quote is true, is usually the willingness to implement restructuring measures. As a listed company, you naturally have to keep an eye on the capital market and see what the share price is doing. After all, investors live on dividends and rising share prices, which are of course strongly influenced by the profitability of the company. On the other hand, investors have also been calling for restructuring for some time.

What were the first and most important restructuring measures?

The first step was to concentrate on our sales company. We handled this primarily internally. We tackled the major restructuring from 2017, when I was appointed to the Executive Board. After an extensive joint analysis, we basically turned many screws. On the one hand, this involved process optimization, addressing overcapacities and optimizing overheads through duplication. It was never simply a matter of operating cost cutting via the workstations. That would be the easiest way to say that you save 30 percent on employees. At Wolford in particular, this would not be possible and certainly not meaningful due to the diversity of the system.

Looking back, would you describe the entire process as ideal?

Anyway. Together with Syngroup, we were able to take managers and employees along with us in this process. As a result, many improvements were implemented extremely quickly. Of course, this is also a great advantage for the company. We had broad support at all levels.

What were the most important and most efficient changes in this context?

In the last financial year we had 180 FTE and were thus able to achieve sustainable savings. The positive side effect of the cost savings is that the company can be more agile and efficient.

» Together with Syngroup, we were able to take managers and employees along with us in this process.  «
Mag. Brigitte Kurz
CFO Wolford
Does the changed buying behaviour, which is increasingly moving towards online shops, help you?

We are currently monitoring the flow of customers at our 130 boutiques, but there are always a few problems. The retail network is basically performing well.

To what extent is the digital transformation of a company like Wolford an issue in such a phase?

That is absolutely relevant, and we also have double-digit growth rates in this area. Especially through our Chinese investor Fosun, we hope to gain additional access to the Asian market. There are channels that are not even known in our geographies.

Conclusion of your work in the context of restructuring?

I think we are on the right track. We have done quite a few important things, but we have to be aware that in this challenging market environment, constant questioning and changes are necessary. We have the advantage of being able to build on an internationally renowned brand, but no company can afford to stand still.

A final word on our cooperation with Syngroup?

The collaboration was absolutely productive. But you have to be aware that with such intensive activity, which we have undertaken together in a very short period of time, we sometimes grind our teeth. But with Syngroup, we have a consulting company at our side that very openly addresses critical issues. Together, we have been successful in quickly picking up our managers. This is an immensely important factor, since in the end, such restructuring measures are all about efficiency and time.

In Short
  • Location
  • Employees
  • Annual Turnover
    € 149,07 Mio.
  • Industry
    Manufacturer of textiles
  • The Company

    Wolford AG, headquartered in Bregenz, is an Austrian manufacturer of textiles in the premium segment with a focus on tights, bodices and underwear, but also produces women’s outerwear and accessories.

    Wolford AG has 16 subsidiaries and sells its products in around 60 countries through more than 267 of its own and partner-operated brand boutiques, 3000 retail partners and online. The company, which has been listed on the Vienna Stock Exchange since 1995, generated sales of EUR 149.07 million in the 2017/18 financial year (May 1, 2017 to April 30, 2018) with around 1433 employees.